Arts & Entertainment, Music

FEMINAE NOX: Empowering Black, Indigenous, and people of colour working in music

Walking into Francesco’s Discoteca, I was met with hazy red lights that lit up the long room with a seductive glow. Large mirrors scattered the sparkle of at least 30 disco balls around the room, dipping guests in a starry glow. Francesco’s was vibrant, from the postmodern art warming the walls to the towers of shining glasses ready to be filled. But if the venue was a living, breathing entity, then its beating heart was the music. FEMINAE NOX brought the place to life. 

Founded by three incredibly talented McGill alumni—Mira Silvers (BA ‘11), Gloria-Sherryl François (BA ‘21), and Seny Kassaye (BA ‘20)—FEMINAE NOX is an equity-driven platform striving to prioritize Black, Brown, and other racialized women on stage and behind the scenes. This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, marked the launch of the platform’s residency at Fransesco’s Discoteca, ushering in a new era of soon-to-be regularly scheduled shows. 

A city with an unquenchable thirst for nightlife, Montreal boasts many clubs that entice people out for a night of dancing. However, under the glamour of these establishments lies a static and restricted field. The agents, DJs, and staff in the music scene are predominantly white men, with little signs of a changing atmosphere. Unlike other professions that have strict qualifications, the music industry lacks strict criteria for choosing a job candidate. The beauty of this informality is a seemingly accessible and mixed industry, but in reality, it creates an environment based on connections where friends hire friends—a barrier that often restricts access for Black people, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour.

I interviewed co-founder Mira Silvers, who connected me with the two other co-founders. She also came up with the platform’s intriguing name—using both Latin and a reference to the Greek Goddess Nyx to mean “Goddess of the Night.” She has worked internationally in music in marketing and now is a live agent for musicians, artists, and DJs, as well as an artist manager. 

Silvers acknowledged the industry’s unwillingness to allow entry to racial minorities. “There’s a fear that sharing info will detract from your own pocket,” she said in an interview with The Tribune. “I’m anti-gatekeeping, the more we can share, the better the industry can get. We can create a platform built by us for the people being left on the fringes. We can create the industry we want.”

Silvers remembers the challenges she faced breaking into the industry, especially in Montreal, where she noticed a lack of support and guidance. Likewise, co-founder Gloria-Sherryl Francois (also known as the incredible G L O W Z I) and co-founder Seny Kassaye (a live agent and marketing executive who has worked on digital marketing compaigns for artists like Cardi B, Central Cee, Megan Thee Stallion, and the Barbie Soundtrack) both faced many challenges themselves. It is these plights and difficult experiences that brought the three leaders together, determined to reshape the industry’s future. 

With FORT Agency—of which Seny and Mira are live agents and G L O W Z I is a client—offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Montreal, these women are ushering in a wave of change internationally. 

Kassaye’s nomination for the Young Executive Award at the 2023 International Live Music Conference’s Arthur Awards highlights her groundbreaking role as one of the only Black booking agents in Canada. While this is a trailblazing moment to be proud of, the reality of her being one of a few Black booking agents is a harrowing reflection of the stagnant state of diversity in the industry. 

“People tell us we’re making history, but this history should have been made way in advance,” Silvers stated. 

FEMINAE NOX will continue to disrupt the nightlife scene one event at a time, spotlighting racialized people & nonbinary people sharing their fiery love for music. 

FEMINAE NOX’s next live show will be during POP Montreal on Sep 29th featuring Annahstasia + Eritrean-Canadian M.I.Blue.

For more information concerning the underrepresentation of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour Live Music workers in Canada, consider reading

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